Sculptures by The French Pastry School
On the consumer side of the show, chefs and interns from The French Pastry School were continuously creating large all-chocolate sculptures throughout the weekend. This abstract sculpture and rooster sculpture greeted you upon entrance. Some of the chef instructors from FPS also demonstrated how to make chocolate bouchons, truffles, marshmallows, and ice cream on the demo stage throughout the show.
Truffles in Paradise
Participants were given 15 tasting tickets upon entry to the show. One of the first bites I sampled was a subtly spiced white chocolate pumpkin pie truffle from Truffles in Paradise. Owner Marisa Baxter worked in law before starting Truffles in Paradise in 2009. She has no formal training in chocolate making; instead, her beautiful chocolates are the result of lots of trial and error.
Chocolate for the Spirit
Chocolate for the Spirit's "Choc Doc" first walked me through the Dark Chocolate Mayan Spice bar tasting journey: the first thing you taste is simply the dark chocolate, slowly the cinnamon starts to build, and finally there's a little kick from chipotle and chili spices, but it's more flavor than heat. The "Choc Doc" also writes prescriptions for healthy chocolate consumption.
Sweet Addiction Toffee
There was a shocking amount of toffee at the Chocolate Show. One of the toffees on offer was from Sweet Addiction, an online-only company started by Kim Larson. The milk chocolate and pecan toffee recipe was handed down from her grandmother.
Stella Leona Box of Chocolate
Nancy Bontrager, owner of Stella Leona, developed a taste for quality European chocolate as a child when her father would bring back chocolates for her from his business trips abroad. She now makes unique chocolates at her shop including boxes made of chocolate and filled with chocolate truffles as well as truffles inspired by her grandmother's pie recipes.
Uzma Sharif, owner of Pilsen-based Chocolat, worked in pastry before opening her own store in June of this year where she sells a wide variety of chocolate products and teaches classes. I tried a piece of Chocolate Festival, a delightfully crispy cluster of chocolate, hazelnuts, and toasted wafers.
One of my favorite Chicago chocolatiers, Daniel Herskovic, was handing out samples of three different kinds of his outstanding chocolate bars. I sampled a gourmet variation on a Twix bar that featured fleur de sel caramel and shortbread.
Donaldson's Finer Chocolates
Donaldson's classic offerings were among the largest samples available at the show. The company was started by George and Peg Donaldson when they bought a chocolate store from a retiring couple in the 1960's. George, now in his 80's, still works at the store everyday. Proof, says his son, that chocolates are good for you.
Nancy Byrne, owner of Gabriella Chocolates started making cake truffles with the scraps of cakes she made in her bakery. After the surprising success of the truffles, she decided to close the bakery few years ago and focus solely on the truffles. Though they are made with cake, these golf ball-sized truffles have a surprisingly smooth and creamy center.
Oak Mill Bakery
One of the few local bakeries in attendance, Oak Mill Bakery had several beautiful cakes on display.
Sugar Hills Bakery
Sugar Hills Bakery, which has locations in Wheeling and Algonquin, offered up generous samples of their chocolate pecan tart and flourless chocolate cake.
The Intercontinental Epicurean
The Intercontinental Epicurean tries to bring products to the US from European companies that have little to no US presence. They offered several kinds of mousse, Belgian waffles, and these beautiful petits fours.
Toffee Break offered delicious and unusual spins on the usual toffee including this ultra-crunchy pretzel toffee and a slightly softer raspberry toffee.
Moving Over to the Trade Side...
If you attended the festival as a consumer and wondered what kinds of things you were missing out on at the trade side, this is your answer. Delights such as this tempering and coating machine abounded. Here, a pair of Oreos get a chocolate shower.
Removing Excess Chocolate
After the chocolate bath, the bottoms of the Oreos also get dipped in chocolate and then they pass under a fan that blows off the excess.
Heavy-hitters like Valrhona had displays on the trade side as well. They offered samples of their Brooklyn-made truffles.
I remarked that these products from Callebaut look like the dark chocolate crunch topping at Pinkberry and found out that they are! It's no wonder that topping is so good.
Chocolates by M. Josephs
Since they are trying to build their wholesale business, Chocolates by M. Josephs offered samples on the trade side of the show. Among many, many toffees, this deeply flavored specimen was a standout.
I got this spoonful of sweet and creamy dulce de leche from Patagonia Distribution, an Argentinean food products wholesaler.
Desiderio Chocolates offered samples of their chewy vegan caramels.
These beautiful silicone molds were on display at the Truffly Made booth. Silicone molds make turning out intricately molded chocolates a breeze. I shudder to think of the olden days when these babies didn't exist.